Dixon: Countdown to 2010
November 3, 2008 By Paul Dixon
Beijing 2008 is history and all systems are focused on Vancouver 2010.
HELICOPTERS’ Olympic Business Watch
Beijing 2008 is history and all systems are focused on Vancouver 2010. Much has been made of the economic benefits the Olympics will bring to Vancouver, British Columbia and the country as a whole. The 2010 Commerce Centre – www.2010commercecentre.gov.bc.ca – maintained by the province, is the clearing house for 2010 business information. What opportunities there are for rotary-wing operators will not be with VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee) per se, but with subcontractors and other organizations. Many of these have been locked up already. If you are not in the loop yet, this is where you should start.
Opportunities come with challenges; the greater the opportunity, the greater the challenge. What are the challenges, or even threats, posed to the commercial helicopter operator by 2010 and how can the opportunities be maximized? We can revisit the issues raised by Mark McWhirter in previous columns. Operating rotary-wing aircraft in and around Greater Vancouver is challenging under ideal conditions, let alone during February and March, when short days and unpredictable west coast weather can play havoc with schedules. Combine the weather variables with security concerns and it may well result in a virtual “no-fly” zone.
The core of Vancouver’s downtown will be inside a security cordon, containing the Trade & Convention Centre (Canada Place), which will be the 2010 media centre, and a number of surrounding hotels providing accommodation to those directly connected to 2010. The Vancouver Harbour Heliport (CBC7) is located scant metres east of Canada Place and the Coal Harbour Seaplane Base (CXH) will actually be integrated into the new extension to Canada Place. On any given day, there are hundreds of arrivals and departures at these key transportation links for travellers through downtown Vancouver.
The 2005-2006 Treasury Board Departmental Perfpormance Report for the Department of National Defence defines Canada’s role and responsibilities within NORAD and closes the section with: “Also, operational planning began, on ensuring protection for the greater Vancouver area from possible air attacks during the 2010 Olympics.”
While this conjures up images of CF-18s flying combat air patrols over English Bay and missile batteries in Stanley Park, we really don’t know what it means. There are many steps that can be taken to minimize security concerns, the very least being a thorough security investigation of any individual or company hoping to operate within any of the 2010 security cordons. Can you, your employees and your organization stand up to the security equivalent of a rubber-glove examination?
If there are airspace restrictions or closures on the Vancouver waterfront, the usual alternate would be YVR South, with the seaplane base on the Fraser River and where a number of rotary-wing operators are located. Unfortunately, the Olympic speed-skating facility is located on the south side of the Fraser, almost directly across the river. Combined with the fact that many Olympic VIP flights will arrive and depart from private facilities on the south side of YVR, and the general heightened security level in and around the entire airport facility, there may well be a serious damper on operations from the south side of YVR as well.
While 2010 organizers acknowledge there will be an impact on the daily routine, they are on record as hoping that businesses and individuals will look upon disruptions to their daily routines as their part in “volunteering” for the Olympics. The flights in and out of Vancouver harbour don’t carry many tourists or sightseers during February and March of any year. Business travellers are the people who fly from the harbour, every day, all year. Not being able to fly means taking a ferry and adding at least one day or night to a trip, which may not be feasible. This is the trickle-down effect on the businesses up and down the coast that rely on flying from Vancouver harbour.
The silver lining is that there is still time for operators who may be affected to put some serious thought into developing broader, alternative plans for business continuity. It may well be that there will be no significant disruptions to air service in and out of Vancouver harbour during the Olympics. On the other hand, is there any difference to being shut down for a day or a week by Olympic security concerns or waking up tomorrow morning to find out your operation suffered some unexpected catastrophe overnight?
There is only one time to start planning and that is right now.
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Paul Dixon is a freelance photojournalist living in North Vancouver.